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Perfect Logic For Being A Cubs Fan

Perfect Logic For Being A Cubs Fan

Born On The Fourth Of July

In analyzing any film with Oliver Stone attached, one is typically required to take the view on history with a grain of salt. Nixon, JFK, Platoon and Salvador all feel like an encyclopedia is necessary to fact-check the proceedings. His movies that aren’t based as much on history, such as Talk Radio, Natural Born Killers, and Any Given Sunday, are all written from such a blatant political or social slant that if you don’t agree, the movie’s are going to do little more than get your blood boiling. 

With this knowledge in mind, I began Born on the 4th of July with obvious hesitance. Would Oliver Stone, an obviously leftist director handle the anti-war movement objectively? Would Tom Cruise, a man best known for roles in Top Gun and Risky Business be able to play Ron Kovic’s character believably? Finally, and most importantly, would a movie with such dour subject matter work in the theaters?

Yes, yes (depending on your taste), and yes. However, I believe that the reason the movie worked as well as it did is not so much a credit to Stone directing as it is Ron Kovic himself co-writing. Kovic had wanted his story in film since the day it hit bookstores in 1976. If Kovic is going to wait 14 years to tell his story, you had better be sure that he is going to make sure it gets told correctly. 

And perhaps that desperation is what made this work. That desire to get his story out there for those who didn’t read it. A chance for his story to reach those who 14 years before, were unwilling or unable to listen. Slant, bias and righteous anger can get you heard, but it won’t get you listened to. Perhaps both Stone and Kovic wanted to be sure this movie would inspire based on fact and truth, instead of emotion and fact-twisting. 

Regardless of reason, this one works. Not in the way that Platoon worked, as a heart-wrenching examination of Jung’s duality of man. Born on the Fourth Of July works as a genuine personal history of one man’s own personal war. Vietnam, hell. The war was back home.

The Long Walk Home

I struggled with how to frame my blog about this movie. I have plenty to say, I just have no idea how to say it. My biggest fear, in summarizing The Long Walk Home was not an issue of finding something profound to say. Any profundity was found, and made, in the midst of this movie’s hour-forty runtime. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being trite.

In discussing this movie (through the sobs) to multiple people, I heard many insightful things from many people. The one statement that stuck with me, however, was a friend telling me that “it’s good that you can’t fathom this happening. It means we’re changing. It means we’re maturing.” 52 years later, I do believe we’re maturing but I will hesitate to say that we’ve matureD. I think great steps have been made in thte fact that this movie can induce tears. The violence, racial epithets, and near-Klan meetings are all deplorable to us, and thank goodness this is the case. 

I’m not sure what my point is here, and I do fear that I have essentially been rambling for the past couple paragraphs. As I said in the wiki, this is a hard movie to discuss, because it’s a period that is hard to admit is part of our history. But what made this movie so effective, what made it so AFFECTING, is that it was right. As much as it was a historical document, it was also a cautionary tale, much along the lines of Schindler’s List or, in a non-historical sense, Requiem For a Dream. (Anyone brave enough to sit through either knows how I can make the emotional connection.) These all work as a reminder of how dangerous human nature can be. I just hope enough people are wise enough to pay attention.

JFK Bibliography

Fuller, Graham. “The Unstoppable Stone.” Interview. Jan. 1996.

Lambert, Patricia. False Witness. New York: M.Evans and Co, 1992.

 

Phelan, James. Scandals, Scamps and Scoundrels: The Casebook of an Investigative Reporter. New York:     Random House, 1982.

Reeves, Thomas C. The Journal Of American History 79 (1992): 1264.

Stone, Oliver. JFK. Directed by Oliver Stone. 206 min. Warner Bros, 2002. DVD.

Time Machine: False Witness. History Channel. 2000.

Turner, William and Hinckle, Warren. The Fish Is Red. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

United States. Warren Commission. The Warren Commission Report: The Official Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. September 1964.

JFK – Oliver’s Twist: Or, Please Sir, May I Have Some More Conspiracy?

***I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE THE OWNER OF ANY MEDIA IN THIS BLOG***
Stone does a masterful job of making a sound piece of entertainment. The characters are enthralling throughout JFK and the wild theories, in the manner they are presented to the viewer, are portrayed in a manner which makes them almost believable. The problem is, they are almost believable. Simple fact-checking allows the viewer to realize that there are many errors or rewrites of history made in order to improve quality of story. There have been countless books written on Stone’s depiction of history, and Stone has given plenty of interviews defending his point. Perhaps his view is best stated in a 1996 conversation he had with Interview’s Graham Fuller, in which he said that “the Warren Report is a myth, and that my movie, for want of having all the facts available, is a counter-myth.” [1]

 

Oliver Stone behind the camera

Oliver Stone behind the camera

It is with such a claim, that 3-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone begins his grandiose attempt at alternate history. He is often proved wrong, and at many junctures through his interviews regarding JFK, he readily admits to altering details to allow for a more Hollywood-ready story. However, he succeeds in asking many important questions, ruffling the feathers of several higher-ups, and if nothing else, forcing the nation to reconsider exactly what happened that November afternoon in Dallas, Texas. Perhaps, this was his only intent. Perhaps he never wanted to be “right,” or solve a decades-old whodunit. But the truth is, and must not be ignored, that he is, in multiple examples, very wrong.

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Stone begins his arguments in his typical style, with a frenetic collage of voices and images. When the voices whisper, the images scream with a primal violence that only Stone can achieve. The movie begins with a fast-paced overview of all the reasons why someone in the United States of Oliver may have wanted Kennedy out of the picture for good.

As motive goes, according to Stone, there is plenty to choose from. The April 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster resulted in the death of 114 American soldiers. Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA – an agency that Kennedy detested – is fired soon after.[2] In November of 1963, Kennedy demands a by-Christmas withdrawal of 1,000 troops from Vietnam, hoping to have a complete pullout after the 1964 election, believing Americans shouldn’t be expected to stop a Communist regime 9,000 miles away if they couldn’t stop one from ninety. [3]

Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev

Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev

The problem is, none of these reasons are valid. Kennedy’s Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, never heard JFK discuss a withdrawal from Vietnam.  Bobby Kennedy agreed, saying that “the President felt he had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam…the loss of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam.”[4] Furthermore, it has been stated that “his final speeches bristled with anti-Soviet rhetoric” and he was working towards a coup of Castro’s rule in Cuba. Thusly, if JFK was anti-Castro, anti-Soviet, and not turning dove, who could possibly have motive to kill Kennedy other than an off-the-rails former Marine rifleman posted in the window of a building on a Dallas street?

 

An off-the-rails, former Marine rifleman. AKA, Lee Harvey Oswald

An off-the-rails, former Marine rifleman. AKA, Lee Harvey Oswald

However, motive is only one of many issues found within Stone’s epic. His main protagonist, Jim Garrison, worked a theory so unrealistic in his failed prosecution of Clay Shaw that it took the jury less than an hour to find Shaw not guilty. The issue at the heart of this, the one piece of evidence that many people see as the absolute end-all proof of conspiracy, is the idea that there were not necessarily multiple shooters responsible for Kennedy’s death, but multiple people ensuring that Oswald would successfully take the shots, creating the idea that Oswald did not act alone.

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The issue with this is, it contradicts just about every federal investigation and document stating otherwise. The Warren Commission, which spent nine months coming to the conclusion that Oswald was the only shooter, is deemed to be wrong not just by the characters in Stone’s film, but by Jim Garrison himself in his book On the Trail of the Assassins. As an examination of his trial of Clay Shaw, Garrison reiterated his point that Kennedy was assassinated as part of a conspiracy involving Oswald, Shaw and David Ferrie.

Joe Pesci playing David Ferrie in JFK

Joe Pesci as David Ferrie

Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw

Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw

The bullet in question is said to have entered the back of Kennedy’s neck, exited through the front, struck the front seat passenger Governor Connally in the ribcage and lodged itself in his thigh. Detractors from this conclusion state that the path the bullet took zigged and zagged, hitting areas that would be impossible for a bullet to strike given a normal, logical path, unless the wounds were caused by multiple bullets from multiple shooters.

This is further “explained” by the idea that for all the shots to hit in the short amount of time, a near-impossible aiming skill would be necessary for there to only be one shooter. It’s a rather convenient explanation. Three shots, mere seconds elapse, of COURSE all three could hit with two shooters, when only one man is responsible for firing more than one shot!

However, all three shots did not make contact. As the Warren Commission determined, one of the three shots (although it is unclear which) missed entirely. It is determined that the time span between Kennedy’s neck and head shots was “approximately 4.8 to 5.6 seconds.” Furthermore, they determined that if the second shot missed, that this would be the total amount of time between all three shots. However, if either shots #1 or #3 missed, there would need to be 2.3 seconds of time added to account for rifle operation, bringing the total time to between 7.1- 7.9 seconds…two bullets probably caused all the wounds suffered by President Kennedy and Governor Connally.” [5]

The Warren Commission exhibit on the trajectory of the magic bullet

The Warren Commission exhibit on the trajectory of the "magic bullet"

The next major issue is the portrayal of the second conspirator, David Ferrie. While Joe Pesci does a masterful job as the MOVIE version of Ferrie, a paranoid, hyperactive man who hated Kennedy and believed HEARTILY in the fight to assassinate Kennedy, the true Ferrie was a devout Kennedy supporter and a staunch opponent of Castro. Furthermore, despite the movie’s insistence that Ferrie was murdered after confessing to the conspiracy [6], he was neither murdered nor ever a confessor to conspiracy against Kennedy. 

Ferrie died of a cerebral hemorrhage, not the foul play depicted in JFK. As writer James Phelan explains, “a berry aneurysm is a congenital defect. David Ferrie had been born with a weak artery wall in his hairless head, and it picked a dreadful time to give way.” [7] Garrison’s ADA stated in a History Channel documentary that “we went to Jim and said ‘your main witness is dead…you can’t go any further.’ He looked at us and said ‘are you crazy? We’re just getting onto something here.'” [8]

As for his “confession,” it wasn’t really like Ferrie got a chance. Although requesting face time with Garrison on several occasions, as well as repeated requests to try lie-detector and truth serum tests, he was turned down, repeatedly, by Jim Garrison himself.[9] If Ferrie never got the chance to confess before his death of natural causes, how could he POSSIBLY be a murdered killer as depicted in JFK?

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The answer is creative license. When you are the winner of a Best Picture and two Best Director Oscars before you begin filming this one, you can pretty much do whatever you want and call it art. However, as countless articles have shown, it is art, and not history. One educated on the Warren Report, the investigation’s involved parties and Jim Garrison himself can point out dozens of errors with the complete retooling of Garrison’s case. After watching the film, reading the articles and doing multitudes of other research, it becomes clear that much like Dan Quayle, Oliver Stone’s depiction is No Jack Kennedy.

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[1] Graham Fuller. “The Unstoppable Stone.” Interview. Jan. 1996.

[2] Warren Hinckle and William W. Turner. The Fish Is Red. (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 112.

[3] JFK. Dir. Oliver Stone. Perf. Kevin Costner. DVD. 2002. 

[4] Reeves, Thomas C. The Journal Of American History 79 (1992): 1264.

[5] The Warren Commission.

[6] JFK. Dir. Oliver Stone.

[7] James Phelan, Scandals, Scamps and Scoundrels: The Casebook of an Investigative Reporter (New York: Random House, 1982), pp. 141-42.

[8] Time Machine: False Witness. History Channel. 2000.

[9] Patricia Lambert. False Witness. (New York: M.Evans and Co, 1992), 62.

JFK Project – Page One (Basic Info & What It Got Right)

I HEREBY PLEDGE TO HAVE NEITHER GIVEN NOR RECEIVED ANY AID ON THIS PROJECT.

-Nick “Cash” Nelson

 

John F. Kennedy was one of the most revered public leaders of our time. Popular, handsome and knowledgeable, he took the nation by storm. However, his assassination in November of 1963 is shrouded in mystery, speculation, and conspiracy theories. One of those theories is examined in Oliver Stone’s JFK. It will be the job of the following few posts to show in a clear, objective manner that Oliver Stone, though adamant in his beliefs, is ultimately wrong with his theories and ideas. 

***I DO NOT CLAIM TO BE THE OWNER OF ANY IMAGERY CONTAINED HEREIN.***

WHO:

  • John F. Kennedy – President. Elected in 1960, killed in 1963. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. There are theories abounding as to why Kennedy was killed, and whether or not it was part of a conspiracy.
  • Lee Harvey Oswald – JFK’s assassin. If taking the Warren Report as absolute truth, Oswald acted alone. He was shot and killed two days after Kennedy’s death, by Jack Ruby.
  • Jack Ruby – Oswald’s murderer. When Oswald was being transferred from police HQ to the county jail, Ruby pulled out a pistol and shot Oswald in the stomach, a spectacle that was captured on live television. Oswald died in the same hospital as Kennedy had just two days before.
Ruby Shoots Oswald 

Ruby Shoots Oswald

 

 

  • The Warren Commission – The Congressional committee responsible for determining the final say in Kennedy’s death. They concluded that he was shot by Oswald alone.
  • Jim Garrison – New Orleans D.A. who attempted to convict Clay Shaw on charges of conspiracy to assassinate the President. While Garrison’s case was unsuccessful, it served as inspiration for his book On The Trail Of The Assassins, serving as major basis for Oliver Stone’s film JFK.

 

 

  • Clay Shaw/David Ferrie  – The men accused of conspiring with Oswald in the assassination. Ferrie could not be brought to court in his involvement, due to a fatal brain hemorrhage in 1967. The case first took to trial in January 1969. Shaw was found not guilty in his involvement in Kennedy’s death. The jury took less than an hour to acquit him.
  • Clay Shaw

WHY kill Kennedy:
There is no known answer for this. Oswald was murdered before he could testify, and if there is a true conspiracy, the government has refused to comment.
HOW was Kennedy Killed:
The easy answer here is to say it was one of two gunshot wounds, fired by Oswald and suffered by Kennedy during his motorcade route through Dallas, TX. Since the first shot ruptured Kennedy’s throat, and the second was a headshot, it is likely that either would have been lethal in solo. 
WHEN and WHERE was Kennedy killed?: 
Jack Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. He was shot twice at roughly 12:30 CST, and pronounced dead at 1:00 CST. He was 46 years old.
The full details of Kennedy’s assassination are still under heavy scrutiny, and the subject of countless conspiracy theories. Oliver Stone’s JFK has been accused of being exactly that. It will be the mission of the rest of this project to determine whether that is the case, or if Stone managed to craft an accurate historical drama.
WHAT STONE GOT RIGHT
Unfortunately, this can be added onto the historical background section on the basis of there being so little to say. So little, in fact, that it is actually easier just to list the accuracies, while I use the next page to dissect the INACCURACIES, which were much more numerous. So here…we…go…
  1. JFK was killed by an assassin’s bullet. He WAS killed in Dallas, TX, and the time of death was, in fact, 1:00 CST. Amidst the conspiracies and wild theories, Stone maintained the basic details.
  2. The characters were all real people. Jim Garrison, David Ferrie, Clay Shaw, Garrison’s law firm staff, Jack Ruby, the Senators. They were, however, greatly reinvented for the movie.
  3. Clay Shaw’s trial wasn’t taken very seriously in real life, either. As stated earlier, Shaw was acquitted in less than an hour.
  4. The chronology was all correct, down to the smaller details. (Oswald’s death and Dr. King’s assassination both happened at the same time as they were occurring in the film.)
Out of all the details, these are the major ones that would be most important to mention. As with any blockbuster Hollywood film, there will be plenty of story to reinvent and fabricate, but these are the situations that were, in fact, right. So while the movie is entertaining, and often an enthralling watch, all I can really give Mr. Stone is the following:

 

 

 

A for Effort.

A for Effort.

She might’ve been YOUR darling Clementine, but she wasn’t MINE…

I hated this movie. I am going to try and be objective in this blog-post about it, but really, John Ford tanked hardcore with My Darling Clementine. It wasn’t even the love story being 90 percent of the film’s plot. It wasn’t the blatant racism, although that was on the level of Gone With The Wind in its shock value. No, it was the fact that Ford, one of the more esteemed directors in the western genre, completely disregarded the facts behind the Gunfight at the OK Corral and instead decided to turn it into a sappy love story between a falsified Wyatt Earp and that Clementine chick.

Now, it must be said, I was raised on High Noon and Sergio Leone’s Man With No Name trilogy. I have an idea of what westerns “are supposed to be,” and was very disappointed when Clementine didn’t fit that mold.

My disdain for this flick could have come from the fact that the love story seemed like a b-story pushed to the forefront. It could have been that the gunfight sequences made up, from what I could gather, about 10-15 total minutes of the movie, despite (at least according to Netflix), the movie being about the Gunfight at the OK Corral! But really, I think it was the grand trifecta of a needless love story, blatant ignorance of the facts, and eyebrow-raising comments regarding the minorities in the film. Strike one, John Ford. Strike one.

Bibliography for Previous Post

BBC News. “On This Day: 22 November. 1963: Kennedy Shot Dead in Dallas.” Available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/22/newsid_2451000/2451143.stmInternet: Accessed on 15 October 2008.

BBC News. “On This Day: 24 November. 1963: Kennedy ‘assassin’ murdered.” Available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/24/newsid_3198000/3198106.stm. Internet: Accessed 15 October 2008.

JFK-Online. “The Trial Of Clay Shaw.” Available from http://www.jfk-online.com/chron.html Internet: Accessed 15 October 2008.

Simile. “The JFK Assassination Timeline.” Available from http://simile.mit.edu/timeline/examples/jfk/jfk.html. Internet: Accessed 15 October 2008.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee On Assassinations. The Final Assassinations Report. New York: Bantam, 1979.

Glory!

I have to say that this is, as I’ve told a classmate, the PERFECT historical war film. Of all the movies we have watched, Glory is the one that REALLY gets everything as close to “Right” as a Hollywood movie can. As Dr.M explained, the South was NOT the only part of the nation that was racist. The hostility and resentment towards the blacks was something that never seemed exaggerated in this film, yet was never glossed over either. The importance of the 54th MA unit showed itself, and without a Disney-fied grandstanding.

However, I think the most important part is the fact that they did not try to change the events of the attack on the fort. Very often, especially with the pass we have given Hollywood to try and transform less-than-satisfactory results for a more Hollywood ending, these movies will try and tie a pretty bow around a less than pretty event. It was nice to see that Ed Zwick, known for About Last Night, thirtysomething and the (in my mind) overrated Blood Diamond, did not try to sanitize the results of this attack.

All in all, honestly, as close to perfection as we have seen. And this coming from a Denzel hater.

(So Far) Gone With The Wind

I seem to be the only person who does not feel that length is what hindered Gone With The Wind from being a watchable movie. I am admittedly a sucker for “longer” movies (The Two Towers, Gettysburg, and Apocalypse Now are three of my favorites) but I also realize that making a movie long, just for the sake of doing so can be its own undoing (see: Alexander or Troy).

No, length is not what bugged me about GWTW. As many of my classmates have expressed, the racism in the movie is, even for the time, unbearable. Knowing that this was going on behind the scenes as well only made it sadder. Much like Pocahontas, I do not believe this was supposed to be a spot-on recreation of what really happened in the South. It is a love story at heart, and it just happened to have the Civil War setting around it. As a love story, I think it accomplished what it set out to do. Isn’t that enough?



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